First introduced in 1966, the Chevrolet Camaro has achieved sales of more than 5.5 million units worldwide and has served as a pace car for the Indy 500 on seven occasions. It was originally intended to compete directly with the Ford Mustang but has since taken on an identity of its own. We’ll explore the Camaro’s history and talk a little bit about what to expect for the future.
Fast-Tracking the Camaro
As early as 1962, auto designers with GM were already working on a sporty, compact coupe which they had codenamed “Panther.” Ironically, early prototypes of the Panther revealed a body that was very similar to the future Mustang in length, height, and width.
Chevy apparently took too long in getting the Panther to market. Mustang released its legendary Mustang in 1964, and it quickly took the industry by storm. Sales surpassed everyone’s wildest expectations, so Chevy knew it needed to become competitive quickly.
Four months after the Mustang’s debut, General Motors decided to forge full speed ahead with a competitor. The Camaro, which shared a platform and similar features with the Pontiac Firebird, was finally introduced in the fall of 1966.
The Camaro’s announcement was just as historic as the vehicle itself would later turn out to be. In June 1966, General Motors sent a telegram to nearly 200 automotive journalists asking them to attend a “SEPAW” meeting at noon on the 28th.
This was followed up by a subsequent telegram which read “Society for the Eradication of Panthers from the Automotive World will hold first and last meeting on June 28...” It was signed by John L. Cutter, a public relations officer for Chevy and self-proclaimed SEPAW secretary.
The journalists were naturally puzzled by the telegrams, but would soon have the information they needed to connect the dots. The press conference was held at the Statler-Hilton Hotel in Detroit, with reporters in 14 other cities connected via teleconference. It marked the first time that journalists in different locations were connected for a press conference in real time.
At the press conference, Chevrolet’s general manager, Pete Estes, claimed that he was holding the first and last meeting of SEPAW. It was now clear that the long-awaited Panther was instead being introduced as the Chevy Camaro.
Explaining the Name
There were naturally a lot of questions as to the name. How did Chevrolet come up with the name Camaro? According to Estes, the word “Camaro” suggested camaraderie. However, other Chevy representatives allegedly told reporters that a Camaro was a “small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs.”
It was clear by those remarks that Ford would be facing some stiff competition. Adding more fuel to the fire, Estes further remarked that “We don’t expect the Camaro to outsell the Mustang immediately, but eventually it will.”
The first generation Camaro was available as both a coupe and a convertible. It more closely resembled the already-successful Nova, which was then in the process of being redesigned. Furthermore, Chevrolet attempted to distance the Camaro from the Corvair, which had received a great deal of negative publicity from consumer advocate Ralph Nader.
Camaro made two trim packages available. The RS or Rally Sport trim included hidden headlights and a more upscale interior. The Super Sport or SS trim had a domed hood and a set of “bumble bee” stripes along the nose.
The second-generation Camaro first appeared in February 1970. As such, second-generation Camaros are noted as 1970 ½ model years or higher. By this time, the Camaro was still based on the Nova but was also attempting to compete with Ferrari. Accordingly, the body became longer, wider, and heavier than before.
Chevy equipped its Z28 version with a 360 hp. engine that went from zero to 60 mph in only 5.8 seconds. Known for being very powerful, this engine performed well in city traffic as well as on the highway. The available automatic transmission further added to its appeal as a daily driver.
The second-generation Camaro underwent several cosmetic changes throughout its twelve-year history. Fuel shortages and changing emission standards also resulted in the Camaro having less power near the end of the 1970s.
Third-generation Camaros were more modern, versatile, and lightweight. For the first time, these cars came with fuel injection and were built without front sub-frames. The third generation ran from 1982-1992 with the IROC being offered from 1985-1990. A special B4C pursuit vehicle was released for law enforcement only in 1991.
The fourth generation arrived in 1993 and ran until 2002. It featured an updated F-body platform along with the same rear suspension as the third generation. Chevrolet offered only two models initially: the base model coupe and the Z28. A convertible Camaro would later make a comeback for the 1994 model year.
For its 35th anniversary, Chevy released a special graphics package for its Z28. This would mark the last time that the automaker would produce the Camaro for eight years.
The fifth generation arrived in 2010 and was originally available only as a coupe. Its design was eerily reminiscent of the original Camaro yet had a more robust profile. A more modern interior, disc brakes, 18-inch wheels, and independent rear suspension also helped separate it from previous generations.
Sixth-generation Camaros arrived in showrooms for the 2016 model year. This was an even lighter version, weighing in 200 pounds less than the fifth generation Camaro.
Still in production, the sixth-generation Camaro shares a platform with the Cadillac ATS. It’s now available as both a coupe and a convertible, with five unique trims and four dynamic powertrains. The Redline Edition offers aluminum wheels with red accents while the Shock and Steel special editions have racing stripes and blade-design aluminum wheels.
The current generation is expected to run through the 2023 model year. After that, rumor has it that Chevy will once again cease production of this iconic vehicle.
What began as a rivalry to the Mustang has turned into the Camaro becoming a legendary vehicle in its own right-so much so that owning one has become a dream of many sports-car enthusiasts. If you are driving a Camaro, you will turn heads no matter where your travels take you.At RealCoolStickers.com we have a large selection of Camaro stickers and muscle car stickers.